Map of the Chase Line. Not to scale.
|Type||Suburban rail, Heavy rail|
West Midlands (region)
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
The Chase Line is a suburban railway line in the West Midlands region of England. It runs from its southern terminus, Birmingham New Street, to Walsall, and then Rugeley in Staffordshire. The name of the line refers to Cannock Chase which it runs through at its northern end.
The line from Birmingham to Walsall (sometimes referred to as the Walsall Line) has two alternative routes, both electrified at 25 kV AC overhead. One leaves New Street to the east, following the Cross-City Line as far as Aston, where it diverges to the west. The other leaves to the west, and travels via Soho. Beyond Walsall, the line is not electrified, and continues north to Hednesford and Rugeley. This section was freight-only, and reopened to passenger trains in stages between 1989 and 1998.
Places served on the route are listed below. For information on the stations, please refer to the list in the route map.
Chase Line (Walsall-Rugeley)
Walsall Line (Birmingham-Walsall)
- Bescot (for Bescot Stadium, the home of Walsall FC)
- Stone Cross (near Tame Bridge Parkway station)
- Perry Barr
Monday to Saturday daytime there are four trains per hour from Birmingham New Street to Walsall. Two per hour call at all stations, the other two per hour call at Tame Bridge Parkway and Walsall. Off peak one of these continues to Rugeley Trent Valley, with two trains per hour to Rugeley in the peak hours.
Monday to Saturday evenings and all day Sunday there are two trains per hour (one stopping and one semi-fast) between Walsall and Birmingham and an hourly service to Rugeley Trent Valley.
Class 323 Electric Multiple Units are used for services on the electrified section between Birmingham and Walsall. The services which continue beyond Walsall on the non-electrified stretch to Rugeley use Class 170 Diesel Multiple Units.Some services also utilise Class 153 units in partnership with the Class 170's
The line via Aston, Perry Barr and Bescot is the former Grand Junction Railway, opened in 1837.
The section between Walsall and Cannock was constructed by the South Staffordshire Railway.
The section between Cannock and Rugeley was constructed by the Cannock Mineral Railway.
The line between Walsall and Rugeley Trent Valley closed to passengers in 1965, remaining open to freight, although until the 1980s it was not unknown for diverted Inter-City passenger services from Birmingham to Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, etc. to use the line in the event of the Wolverhampton-Stafford route being shut for Sunday engineering work. It reopened in stages, as follows:
- 10 April 1989 — Walsall to Hednesford
- 2 June 1997 — Hednesford to Rugeley Town
- 25 May 1998 — Rugeley Town to Stafford
- 12 December 2008 — Chase Line trains are withdrawn from the Stafford - Rugeley Trent Valley section of the West Coast Main Line
On 16 July 2012, the coalition government announced the overhead electrification of the Chase Line between Rugeley Trent Valley and Walsall, with work scheduled to take place from 2014, with an estimated completion date of December 2017. It is estimated to cost around £36m, as part of a £9.4bn package of investment in the railways in England and Wales, including £4.2bn of new schemes, unveiled by the government. The electrification was first discussed in the early 1960s, but funding was secured by Aidan Burley, MP for Cannock Chase in February 2013 after his Adjournment Debate on 14 June 2012. Electrification work is due to start in late 2013.
The electrification of the line will be accompanied by a speed increase from the current 45 mph to 75 mph. Consultation in still in progress over a scheme to close Bloxwich level crossing to motorised traffic, enabling the current 20 mph speed limit to be lifted. It will also enable the line to transport W10 freight containers. Preliminary work to re-signal the route ahead of electrification is due to be completed in August 2013, with the closure of the three remaining manual signal boxes at Bloxwich, Hednesford & Brereton Sidings and the panel boxes at Walsall & Bescot. Control of the area will then pass to the West Midlands SCC at Saltley.
For residents of the area, the changes will mean reduced journey times and reduced overcrowding to Birmingham (up to 15 minutes shorter, 4tph) and the surrounding areas, as well as the introduction of new services to Birmingham International (2tph), Coventry (2tph), Liverpool Lime Street and even the possibility of a direct service to London Euston. The electrification itself will create over 1300 jobs in the area and generate a further £113 million of gross value added (GVA) benefit per annum, as well as reducing the operating costs of the line.
In May 2014, London Midland announced that it was intending to run longer trains on the route, requiring station platforms to be extended to accommodate.
Controversy over electrification
Network rail originally planned for £5.4 million of upgrades to increase the overall line speed from 45 mph to 75 mph, due to be completed in December 2013. However, the work was delayed in May 2013 and is now due to arrive with electrification in late 2017.
Gavin Williamson, Conservative MP for South Staffordshire, has campaigned to limit the speed of trains through Great Wyrley and Cheslyn Hay when the line is complete. He has written to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, requesting confirmation that trains travelling through these areas will not exceed a speed of 45 mph. He has also requested that "environmental mitigation measures" be put in place to reduce the potential impact of the electrification on residents in South Staffordshire. Network Rail had previously said that electric trains are quieter, greener and cleaner, reducing carbon emissions.
- J. Glover, West Midlands Rails in the 1980s, Ian Allan, 1984
- British Railways Engineering 1948-80" by John Johnson and Robert A. Long (Mechanical Engineering Publications Ltd, 1981
- Debate: Walsall-Rugeley Line (Electrification)
- High speed rail and supporting investments in the West Midlands
- "£30m to improve Midlands train link". Express & Star. Retrieved 15 Feb 2013.
- More seats on trains after £30m Chase Line work
- Council anger at six year delay to Walsall-Rugeley Chase Line upgrade
- Gavin Williamson MP meets with the under secratary of state over speed of trains through Great Wyrley and Cheslyn Hay
- Network rail announcement for the Chase Line upgrade
- A Century of Railways Around Birmingham and the West Midlands, Volume 3 1973-1999, John Boynton.
- Quail Railway Track Diagrams, Volume 4: Midlands & North West (ISBN 0-9549866-0-1)
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